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Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

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Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Twin Takes: Boy Kills World–soulless splatter fest or well-thought thriller?

A rough depiction of the protagonist’s face, for the duration of Boy Kills World.
Griffin Larson-Erf
A rough depiction of the protagonist’s face, for the duration of Boy Kills World.

Listen to an audio version of this story above.

Reed: So, we watched that new action movie, Boy Kills World

Griffin: And it’s fantastic!

Reed: What? It’s all splatter, no style! I would have thought you, of all people, would pick up on that!

Griffin:  And I thought you would have caught on to the subtle themes!

Reed: Criminy, hold on. We have to do the summary first.

Boy Kills World is an action film starring Bill Skarsgard as Boy, a deaf and mute young man whose family was murdered on the orders of the despotic Hilda van der Koy (Famke Jannsen). Growing up, trained by the Shaman (Yayan Ruhian), Boy becomes, as he says, “an instrument, forged for a single purpose”–to kill Hilda in retaliation. Along the way, H. Jon Benjamin voices Boy’s thoughts. 

Griffin: In his quest, Boy finds an awkward tag-along: an imaginary version of his sister–whom Van der Koy actually killed. In Boy’s mind, meanwhile, she is an ever-present sidekick, the same age as when she died–and just as much of a wise-acre.

Reed: Boy’s main purpose is apparently to slaughter people in stylized, video-game-like fight scenes, for poorly-defined reasons. We know the Van der Koys killed his family, but we get no real insight into how they came to power, or much beyond the fact that Boy’s parents died as part of a routine “Culling” to intimidate the masses. We don’t even know where, geographically, this movie happens. The urban setting is simply called “the City”.

Griffin: But that’s all it needs to be! This film is about action and, frankly, gore–there’s little call for worldbuilding. We’re given all that we need to know, and any plot-unnecessary details are efficiently hinted at. The writers are able to weave a massive plot twist out of just what we know–I think we get all the exposition we need.

Reed: But it’s not just what the audience doesn’t know about the setting–it’s what the filmmakers don’t know about their own Deaf protagonist. Boy is supposed to be able to read lips: we hear what he thinks the other characters are saying. In fact, according to Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, only 30% of spoken English can be lip-read. Likewise, Deaf-run blog The Limping Chicken criticizes the casting of a non-Deaf actor as a Deaf character, among other flaws.

Griffin: I can’t say that you’re wrong about any of that. For our audience, if lousy Deaf representation can ruin this movie for you, then fair enough. On the other hand, if you can manage to find enjoyment in this movie nevertheless–and you have a strong stomach–then I think its detached-from-reality tone and its absurd one-liners make it worth watching.

Reed: Which brings me to my final critique: does the action in this movie blend well with the more tragic elements that come later on? I feel like the movie makes a tonal 180-degree shift as it goes into the third act. The narrative groundwork for the grimmer elements might have been laid early on, but the emotional groundwork hasn’t.

Griffin: On the contrary. You mentioned earlier that the violence in this movie resembles a video game: I think that’s on purpose. Particularly through the soundtrack, the action in this movie has a certain kind of fun to it–more like a game than a movie. That emotional one-eighty is meant to crumble this impression. As the film enters its second half, the same fight scenes are there, but the feel of them has changed. Boy is not having fun anymore: he’s trapped in an unending cycle of violence, fighting and killing with no way to stop.

Reed: Hmm…interesting. I think that’s everything. Wanna sum up?

Reed (left) and Griffin (right) Larson-Erf. Photos by themselves.

Griffin: Finally, my turn! Boy Kills World: it’s sparse on detail, and it’s paltry Deaf representation.  Even so, its philosophizing is as mature as its fight scenes, and the rest of it is just enjoyably odd.

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About the Contributors
Griffin Larson-Erf
Griffin Larson-Erf, Reporter
Griffin Larson-Erf is a junior at Niles North High School. When not writing for North Star News, he can be found reading, writing fiction, and being confused for his twin brother.
Reed Larson-Erf
Reed Larson-Erf, Reporter
Reed Larson-Erf is a Junior at Niles North, joining North Star News for the first time this year. He enjoys reading, writing, watching Doctor Who and Arnold Schwartzenegger movies, and any chance he gets to make his friends laugh.

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